Friday, August 22, 2008

The Hindu Rate of growth

I remember the times as a small kid living in an upmarket 'Bombay' locality, where I shared my apartment block with the likes of Indrani mukherjee, Harmesh Malhotra (Nagina fame), Asha Parekh and my neighbourhood with Sunil Dutt/Nargis Dutt , Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu, had friends who were kids of the rich and famous, went to the school which had Aaamir Khan as its alumni and paid 5 /- a month as fees. Till the time my height became a bit too obstructive for my dad to ride comfortably and we could afford a second hand maruti ( for a whopping 50000/-), The mode of tranport for my family of 4 was an original Vespa (1958 Model) which ferried us for years from Pali Hill in Bandra to Vashi in New Bombay

This was the last decade of what I call the Nehruvian legacy, After 40 years of socialism , there still were the haves and the havenots, and then there were us, "something in the middle & something in between" , the lucky few whose dad's had jobs with those prestigious public sectors financial institutions which had assets in the most posh localities, but operationally were just in line with the Hindu rate of growth, and so were the salaries and growth opportunities.

I was surely among the lucky ones,for me, I have always believed, the standard of life then, when my dad supported his family on a meager salary of less than 10K as a manager was better than what most people can ever have today. In spite of the big bucks just out of college grads make , most will never afford living in the same apartment, I was brought up in.

Probably Nehru had dreamed of an India where most would have been as lucky as i was, but unfortunately that did not or maybe could not have happened, those public sectors even after a good 40 years could be counted on your fingertips and therefore provide employment for maybe not even a % of the Indian populace, and that is where Nehru and later his successors failed to estimate growth rates which would have been required to provide equal opportunities to most. Our economy was growing at around 2 - 3 % whereas other Asian capatalist economies were booming led by japan and then followed by the south east asian economies , Korea and China.

And this, instead of bringing in equality and even distribution of wealth, in fact led to a widening of the Gap between the haves and the have nots, with the rich, who could "manage" the license raj getting richer, the priviledged educated elite who could land jobs in the public sector , Govt , administration or the bureaucracy a respectable lifestlye (though not much money to show) and the rest, the majority with almost nothing. Maybe the Green revolution of the late 60's / 70's was the only saviour for the large agricultural economy on which India survived those decades.

The key was to create millions of jobs, which never happened in the controlled License raj era and left a generation of unemployed undereducated Indians who form todays caste and class ridden Indian middle class who feel let down by the nation in not been given an equal opportunity to grow along with their few lucky countrymen.

I have been lucky and fortunate have been born in the era which witnessed the transition of India from the stifled growth decades of the 80's and early 90's to the era of the open markets today, its true, for me, i might never get to stay in apartment block on Nargis Dutt road in Pali Hill, but am happy for the millions of my countrymen who atleast have a job today and an opprtunity to change their and our country's fortune.

Only if we had started the process in the 50's along with the Japans of the world ...


Surajit Dasgupta said...

I share your angst. Jawaharlal Nehru's policy suffocated entrepreneurship and killed the spirit of enterprise. Also, excessive stress on large-scale industries showed that the political masters living in Raisina Hills couldn't think of the needs of those dwelling in the lanes and bylanes of the country.

Unfortunately, however, capitalism of the kind we have witnessed since 1991 is exactly the reason why capitalists were demonised in our school-level social studies textbooks. The number of entrepreneurs has surely increased. But for a ‘nobody’, launching a business in any Indian city is still a nightmare. Free market is still a far cry. Monopolies and cartels still rule the roost.

The law enforcement agencies are still stooges of the filthy rich — remember Delhi’s Nandas of the BMW-hit-and-run infamy and Mumbai’s Salman Khan among many of their ilk — and the system does not allow you to become as rich in order to take on them, if that is what it takes. You must know that whether the left or the right or the left-of-centre rules the country, a motley group comprising half-a-dozen industrialists always rule. Let alone getting justice from courts, you cannot even get a report against them published in any reputed newspaper as and when you learn of the unlawful/unethical means they resort to in their factories and the rest of society.

A credible journalist is hired by a Hindi television news channel to perform a sting operation on an industry that is rumoured to be guilty of petroleum adulteration in its factory. The scribe disguises himself as a truck driver, intrudes the factory without any guard noticing him, films the process of adulteration successfully and comes back with the tapes. Overnight, to his utter dismay, the owner of the channel strikes a deal with that industry’s honcho for several crores of blackmailed rupees, and the poor journalist not only loses his job but is also refused employment by all other media houses for years to come.

So much so, an Atal Bihari Vajpayee removes a Yashwant Sinha as the Finance Minister of his government for being ‘anti-industry’ and, quite atrociously, the son of the dodgy industrialist above (whose fight with his brother on an issue of inheritance has been national news for the past three years) eggs the likes of Lalu Prasad Yadav to make LK Advani’s daughter-in-law a parliamentary issue! Now imagine, if the prime minister, the home minister and the finance minister of India are susceptible to the machinations of the filthy rich, who are you and who am I?

Finally — and most unfortunately — what to talk of government and capitalists, even the poor misbehave with others of their own economic stratum and treat the rich as their benevolent masters. And the middle class says, “After all, they have served society more than you have… it’s so easy to criticise!” This translates to: Mr X makes profits of billions (of which many millions are illegal). He donates a million rupees for a ‘cause’. Then he kills somebody. Since that somebody’s kin did not spend even a thousand rupees on society, Mr X stands exonerated and acquitted.

The message is: Earn and kill. Or should I say, earn to kill!

ayush said...

i understand that capitalism as it is in India is not perfect, it is still a nightmare to start a new business here and it has its evils as you have rightly identified, and as far as favoritism and lobbying goes, it happens in every country of the world and is more of a natural human tendency to be selfish, but my point here is today by integrating with the global economy through a few of the open market initiatives, atleast for the ones who want to do something avenues are open, and theres no doubting the fact that the number of jobs generated in the last 2 decades has been exponential, and today a lot more people can come out of the disguised unemployement in the agricultural sector that India has seen over the last 50 years ...

Jeeban Ram said...

Hey you lived in Pali Hill!! Extreme envy manifests itself..

Liked the post. Very you.